Note - GIFs dont appear to be play, even though their fine when I run in a browser. Not sure what gives, but I have to go to work.
If you read the praise on Wilson, you can easily get swept away in a tidal wave of otherworldly decision making, poise, read progression, IQ, etc. While he's a talented QB, he's far from infallible. I've seen a lot of comments about the Panthers' front 7 being the sole reason for the low point total last week, but let's take a look at a few different plays.
I thought it was fair to skip the first drive, since Seattle was pinned deep. There's plays I could criticize, but it's the first drive and a pressure situation. After Lynch drops a short pass, the Hawks have 2nd and 10 from their 25 (Q1 5:41).
What's the matter Wilson?? Pretty clean pocket with plenty of room to step up. Multiple receivers wide open. Sure looks like he's staring down his wide open tight end (I presume that's Miller), but he doesn't pull the trigger. Wilson ends up overthrowing Tate, who slightly mistimed his jump. You'll hear a lot about how amazing Wilson is throwing on the run, but nobody is going to hit them all.
Same drive, 3rd down (Q1 5:31), we have this play:
Ok, there's actually a pass rush on this one. However, the DB gave Tate a 10 yard cushion and is at least 5 yards off when Tate makes his break. This is the kind of ball that you should be able to complete more often than not, but RW isn't even close. It's critical that Justin Smith gets similar pressure up the middle to force similar inaccuracy, otherwise we stand of good chance of RW evading Aldon as he comes from the outside.
On the 3rd drive, the Seahawks are moving the ball nicely. Lynch gets a couple decent runs and Wilson is moving the chains with short passes. Russel feeds off the short stuff, although you can see from this play that he leaves a huge gain to the TE on the table. Someone blew the assignment here, but RW is either locked onto his primary and doesn't see the TE or he just wants an easy one in a game he's struggled so far. So, it's Baldwin for 5 yards (Q1 0:49):
Same drive (Q2 13:40):
The pass isn't great, but it's an easy 7 yards. I'd like to think that a quick hit would jar this loose, but there's no Panthers close enough. Wilson is finally starting to make plays, as this play to Coleman was preceded by a nice 14 yard scramble pass to Rice and followed by a harder than it looks touch pass to Baldwin for 25 (although he's wide open). Fortunately for the Panthers, a penalty helps them hold the Hawks to a FG.
I don't want to trivialize some of the longer plays Wilson made, but I really feel like leaking receivers out of the back field is the bread and butter of this offense. They churn out so many plays like this one, where RW is able to hit ridiculously open receivers (Coleman in this case). Russel really likes the quick, easy passes and the misdirection of receivers going all over the place often gets him open looks. Unlike Alex Smith, Wilson can buy the time he needs to get people open more often than not, rather that collapsing under the first guy that gets near him.
It carries over the next drive, with a precise 21 yard pass to Rice on a scramble. Then you get this (Q2 1:21)...
Wilson doesn't pull the trigger on the short out and turns right into a delayed blitz. When I first saw this play live, I was thinking no way does that guy get there in time or doesn't get evaded by RW. However, they got a controlled push in the pocket and a little bit of luck had RW looking the wrong way. Just as he's turning and stepping up in the void, wham! Alas, a penalty and ejection turns what would have been a 3rd and 17ish into a first down. Could delayed blitzes have similar results for us? Probably, if done at the right time and we're disciplined in the rush, to not give other avenues of escape.
The entire 3rd quarter is much of the same short passing game, sans a couple longer scramble plays (including the insane Baldwin sideline catch (it looked like 30 yards, but was only 13). Seattle is focused on the short passing game, with delayed routes and lots of cross patterns. Penalties hampered both drives, but almost everything is underneath. 4th quarter opens up the same and then Seattle finally takes the 2 deep shots, connecting on the 2nd to Kearse for the 43 yard TD. I'm surprised that it took almost 50 minutes to set this up, but they finally took a shot and it paid dividends.
After DeAngelo's pitiful fumble, the Panthers have 5:25 left on the clock and Seattle pinned deep after Lynch gets stuffed for minus-5 on first down. With 2nd and 15 at the Seattle 3, the Panthers give up 12 to an uncovered Coleman. I was going to show this play, but since we already saw Coleman, I'll show a nifty play by Tate (Q4 3:51):
This time it's Tate coming out of the backfield, wide open on 2nd and 8. This entire drive is dinking and dunking, with Carolina either too gassed or too poorly coached to decipher the same plays coming at them over and over again. Props to Tate for the broken tackles, though.
At the end of the day, I think you have to make Wilson beat you down the field. You can give up a couple super hero scramble plays and a long TD, but you can't let him move the chains effortlessly to people out of the backfield. Maybe RW would go "Kaepernick vs the Packers" if we dared him to throw the ball more than 10 yards over the middle, but I know that giving up all this underneath stuff is going to chew up the defense, regardless of pass rush.
As in other games I've focused on RW, I don't see a lot of evidence that he's anything special at reading the field and find the open guys. He is decisive and knows where he's going with the football. Yes he can make some great plays on the run if you let him break contain, but finding a wide open guy 10 yards down the field is not the same as sitting in the pocket and progressing to your 3rd or 4th read.
I'm a little rushed to finish this morning before work, since the Time Warner neighborhood transformer blew up last night and I was cut off from the net for the remainder of the evening. Willbow, don't give up that easy junk out of the backfield, please!!